Bobby strode to the gym early on Tuesday morning, chomping at the bit to train with his Uncle Mike's friend, Randy. Randy had taken Bobby through his first real leg and back workout yesterday at a real hardcore gym, Hank's Gym, where all the areas biggest powerlifters , strongmen and bodybuilders lifted weights.
Bobby struggled to get out of bed that morning, his legs and lats and lower back where amazingly sore. He felt this soreness deep down in his bones,but he wasn't discouraged. This type of soreness, he knew, meant that he had worked hard and that soreness, as his Uncle Mike told him, was just part of the game.
He had done as Randy had told him yesterday and Bobby ate a big steak for dinner last night and had a protein shake before he went to bed. Then, still following Randy's advice, Bobby woke up early and had an omelet with six real eggs and a sweet potato. He never cared for the taste of eggs or sweet potatoes, but Randy told him to eat it, and Bobby did.
On the walk to the gym, Bobby thought that his body was sore, but ready to go. He felt like he had accomplished something by sticking it out through the workout that Randy put him through the day before. He pushed away any doubts that he had that he wouldn’t be able to hack it today by thinking just how badly he wanted to be big and strong.
He was ready to train.
Bobby stood outside Hank’s Gym, waiting for Randy. . He looked at his watch, and it read 5:15. At 5:20, the gym door opened and it was Randy, soaked with sweat. "C'mon in, Randy said, I was just getting some cardio in before you got here. You sore?"
"Okay, get used to it. It's like a badge of honor around here, staying sore."
“I am going to train with you today. We will do some presses first. You'll hear this exercise called the military press, the overhead press, the shoulder press. Its just called the press. So anytime you hear press, it's a standing press. These will fire up your shoulders, but it works your whole body, your triceps, your abs and low back also. It's a great exercise, and it's one that humans have been doing forever. Think about it, there was always a need to put things up on a ledge or in a tree. Maybe our ancestors put food up high so animals couldn't get to it. You have to be strong overhead. If you can press your bodyweight, you are on your way to being strong. “
They started doing presses, using two different racks and two different bars. They needed to do that, because Randy was warming up with one hundred and thirty five pounds for twelve reps and Bobby figured that he didn't have a prayer of lifting that over his head even one time.
Bobby started with the bar. Randy gave Bobby some coaching points,"Set you feet right inside of your shoulders, like you are going to perform a vertical jump. Then put your hands right outside your thighs. That’s your press grip. That's also your clean grip and your RDL grip and your bent row grip. It's the same grip for many exercises. You can adjust according to the size of your arms and you shoulder flexibility, but for right now since you are so puny, let's go with right outside your thighs. Get under the bar, and walk back a step. Squeeze everything, but especially your quads and glutes. Push those knees back and flex your butt hard! Now lean back slightly and then press the bar , ending up with your biceps even with your ears. Pause at lockout.”
Bobby pushed the bar overhead as Randy had instructed. The bar wobbled at the top, Bobby's body attempting to learn this new skill. He brought it down quickly and Randy said, “Don't pause , just go!” and Bobby touched the bar above his chest and quickly pressed it up again. “Stop at five,” Randy instructed. They each did five sets of five reps. Randy finished with two hundred and twenty five pounds and Bobby finished with eighty five pounds. “
Bobby could feel his shoulders and triceps fatigue as he progressed on each set, and now it felt as though they were filled with air. He felt great.
“Bench presses are next. It's a great exercise if you do it right. Lie down here”, Randy said, pointing at a bench.
“Push against the uprights and pinch your shoulder blades together. Now think about your butt and shoulders getting as close as they can to each other. Bobby scooted his feet back until he couldn't come back any further. “Good, keep those feet flat.” Randy walked behind Bobby. He touched his finger at the bottom of Bobby's ribcage. “That's your highest point. That's where the bar should touch. Now lift your butt up off the bench and then set it down lightly. Feel the pressure in the quads? Good. That makes you drive with your legs. Keep the butt barely touching the bench and crush the floor with your feet. I want you to think that the bench press is a leg exercise. I'm going to hand you the bar. Take a little wider than shoulder width grip to begin, we can adjust as needed later. Keep the position, okay?” Bobby felt as though his whole body was going to cramp. “It's not comfortable”, Randy said, But it's worth it. When I hand you the bar, I want you to act like you are bending it in half. That will keep the elbows from flying out. Less stress on the shoulders, especially the pec delt tie in. And you will be stronger this way in the long run. Bending the bar tucks those elbows tight to the body, tucks them right into the lats.”
Randy handed the bar to Bobby. “Bend that sucker!” Randy said, "Okay, now touch the highest point and think about pressing everything in to the bench, not reaching up. Press in a straight line. Down fast and up fast. “
Bobby had everything tight and flexed and he had his elbows tucked in tight. Randy handed him the bar and the bar wobbled as Bobby tried to steady it. “Its okay," Randy said, "your body hasn't done this before. It's learning a new skill.”
Bobby did a set of twelve reps with the bar and put it back. Randy threw on two hundred and twenty-five pounds and did twelve reps also. Bobby noticed that Randy did everything the same way every time, his setup was perfect and the reps were smooth and flawless. They did at least five sets of five reps after the initial warm up set of twelve reps. Bobby was concentrating to keep his elbows in, but as the weight got heavier, his elbows kept flaring out. “Let's drop the weight a bit,” Randy said, Your triceps will get stronger eventually and you will be able to tuck those elbows in. ”
Bobby finished with ninety five pounds on the bench press and Randy did a set of five paused benches with four one hundred and five pounds. The York plates clanged together as Randy pressed the weight off of his chest. Bobby thought that someday, he will have enough weight on the bar to make the weights clang together when he bench pressed.
Now Bobby's whole upper body felt engorged with blood.
“Let’s do some laterals for your shoulders, Bobby.”
Randy grabbed a pair of thirty pound dumbbells and held them at his side. “Alright, watch,” he said. “You want to bring these dumbbells out to the side until they are parallel to the ground. Your elbows should just be slightly bent. And stop about six inches from your thighs and go up again. Keep that tension in the side delt. No swinging at all. I used to show off and do sixty to seventy pound laterals. But it wasn’t until I lessened the weight that my shoulders really started to grow.”
Randy did a set of twelve reps with the thirty pound dumbbells, keeping his body motionless except for his arms. He lowered the weights slowly each time. Bobby grabbed a pair of fifteen pounders but had to swing the weight up for the last few reps so Randy told him to go down to the ten pounders. Bobby didn't know that ten pounds could feel so heavy. Three sets of laterals and they moved to an incline bench. Randy grabbed a pair of eighty pound dumbells and lay back on the bench. “Press these right over your eyes. If you have trouble keeping your elbows in, try a neutral gip. Again, press into the floor as hard as you can, and push your body into the bench hard also.” Bobby did his sets with thirty and forty pounds for three sets of eight reps. Randy finished with a hundred pounds, lowering the weights under control and then firing them up.
“Let's finish with some dips.”
Bobby had done these before, so he felt confident that he could show Randy that he at least knew how to do something well in here. What Bobby wasn’t ready for was having his upper body shake as he tried to steady himself at the lockout for the dips. And when he went down, he had to struggle to get the first rep. He ended up performing five shaky reps when he could usually do ten in a row. “You are just fatigued from all the work that you did before. Don’t worry about it, you are still working hard,” Randy said. After three tough sets of dips of 5 reps for Bobby and sets of twelve for Randy, Bobby was spent. He was feeling huge until he glanced at Randy’s triceps. They were so big that the hung over part of his elbow.
“ Are my arms ever gonna be that big?”
“If you listen to what I teach you and are consistent with all aspects of the lifestyle. That’s lifting, eating, sleeping. Basically living it. If you want it badly enough, you can do it.”
“Time for a protein shake, my man”
Randy and Bobby sat down outside of the gym and drank their protein shakes and Randy began to talk.
“How are you feeling? Like you just got run over by a truck?”
“I am sore, but I really feel great, like I have accomplished something.”
“You have. You got your ass out of bed early while everyone else was sleeping and you trained, you made yourself better. And weight training is different than other forms of exercise. I guess that you could compare sets of squats with running up a steep hill over and over again, but by doing it with weights, you get stronger and you put on muscle. You can put on some muscle on your legs running hills, but after a while, your gains will stop. There isn't any progression. Unless the hill keeps getting steeper and longer! But pretty soon you will have to run up a mountain to get any stimulus. Much easier to put weights on an olympic bar and squat up and down. But anyway, weight training gives me a level of satisfaction that other forms of exercise don't. It feels so good to challenge your muscles, really work them. And then there is the art of recovery and nutrition to maximize the work that you put in the gym. If you aren’t focused on that aspect of it all, including sleep, you are just wasting your time in the gym.”
“I want to stress something else to you also. All that technique stuff that I taught you today and yesterday is so important. Let everybody else use shitty form and let their egos go crazy. You use proper form and you will be bigger and stronger than they will in the long run, and you won't get injured , either. Remember that and you’ll be fine.”
“Aren't there more exercises that I need to learn?”
“There sure are. I just taught you the basics. There are many more lifts to learn, but I wanted to get the basic lifts taught first. The other stuff is important also, we will add a little in each time that we train.”
“You are going to keep training with me?”
If you give me your word that you’ll be here at 5:30 every morning, I will be here and train with you, yes.”
“I’ll be here, I give you my word.”
“Good man. Getting up before school and crushing the weights early in the morning sets you apart from the masses, the regular citizens.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, the people that wake up with their big ass beer belly hanging out from a white shirt, tired as hell, haven't exercised in forever, eats a big breakfast of sugar cereal, orange juice and then always complains about being tired. Same people who are always telling war stories about how they woulda been in the pro’s if it wasn't for that high school knee injury.”
Bobby laughed. “ I know the type.”
“Citizens are the ones who are also looking for a quick fix when it comes to training. They buy things like the Shake Weight and if they do exercise, will do anything that they can to not actually get under the damn bar and do some full squats, to avoid being uncomfortable. They want to avoid that head pounding, vision blurry effect that you get from squatting your ass off. Or they are the ones who act like they are working hard, but are just going through the motions. They do a bunch of little stuff that they espouse as "functional" but it really means that they don't have to face the fact that they are scared of pushing themselves . Everybody has that little voice that says don't do it. It's just that some people listen to the voice and some people eliminate that voice by striving to meet the pain and conquer it , not run away from it."
Randy continued, “They could skip their ten different exercises with their five pound weights and literally just get under a bar , do five sets of squats and leave. Remember that lady in there with the blonde hair? She was lunging and jumping around and stepping up on benches and doing freaking jumping jacks . She used either no weight or super light weights. She was probably practicing some positive reinforcement psychology yoga shit between sets too. All a waste. I like negative self talk when I train, like get this weight you weak son of a bitch! But that’s another story. Anyway, I wanted to tell that lady that she is wasting her time, that she is just making herself tired, but people don't like it when someone shatters their illusion that they are working hard and correctly. And citizens also keep talking and talking and checking their phone. I never have understood wanting to be so damn soft, but to each his own.”
“Well, I don't want to be a citizen. I want to be as big and strong as you one day.”
Randy stood up. “You are off to the right start. Alright , Bobby. Good job today. I'll see you on Thursday. Don't be late.”